Acute pain is generally sharper with a quick onset, while chronic pain has a more dull, achy feel and has been lasting for a longer time frame. The time frame to determine either acute or chronic pain can vary depending on the injury or condition.
Generally acute refers to the initial onset of pain to approximately 7 – 10 days following the injury. Acute pain can be the result of trauma from surgery, injury, childbirth, cuts or illness. Acute injuries can be treated with massage therapy. The main goal for the treatment is to reduce swelling and pain and to maintain the muscle strength and available range of motion of the joint. When dealing with surgeries, it is best to speak to your surgeon to determine the best time frame to receive massage. Some surgeries require a longer wait time before massage is administered while others will have no effect and the individual can receive massage immediately.
The acute stage is often followed by an early sub-acute and late sub-acute stage. It is during these stages that the massage will be more focused on ensuring that pain continues to reduce, that scar tissue does not form, that the length and strength of the muscle is restored, that the joint range of motion is restored and that there is no residual swelling. The client is provided with home care to assist in their recovery.
Chronic pain can last months or years depending on what the condition or situation of the client is. The effects of chronic pain on the body can include tense and short muscles, tight fascia, lack of mobility, lack of strength and energy. When an individual suffers from chronic pain, there can be emotional effects such as lack of appetite, depression, anxiety or anger to name a few. Chronic pain can be brought on by disease but also from repetitive stress to the body. Massage therapy addresses those conditions that affect the fascia, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. The goal of the treatment is to eliminate restrictions found in the tissues and restore the body to normal function.
There are different types of pain associated with certain conditions.
- Cutaneous (skin) pain – sharp, bright, burning, well localized (superficial tissue damage)
- Deep somatic (relating to the body) pain – more diffuse, can refer elsewhere (muscles, tendons, joints, periosteum)
- Visceral pain – diffuse ( visceral distention, ischemia, strong abnormal gastrointestinal contractions)
- Referred pain – sources that can cause referred pain are nerve compressions, trigger points (read more on services) visceral pain.
- Radicular pain – pain that radiates along a nerve and may feel like a sharp shooting pain which can be accompanied by numbness and tingling ( nerve root compression caused by either inflammation or injury to the nerve)
- Sciatica is one example of radicular pain (disc herniations)